Saudi police find 43 tons of explosives

Raid targeted suspects in deadly Riyadh bombing

December 04, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - The militants who bombed a Riyadh housing complex on Nov. 8 had enough military-grade high explosives to make 132 more car bombs of the same size, according to information released yesterday by Saudi officials.

A raid last week on a house believed to have been used by the bombers turned up 84,480 pounds of a material known as RDX and 3,000 pounds of an unidentified explosive, the Saudi Press Agency reported. RDX is a high-quality military explosive used in bombs and torpedoes.

Authorities also recovered an array of weaponry that included a surface-to-air missile, grenades and launchers, 80 Kalashnikov automatic rifles and 168,000 bullets, officials said, as well as dozens of fake IDs, computers and other equipment.

The haul underscores how well armed, and probably well financed, extremist organizations in Saudi Arabia are. Authorities have said the car bomb, which killed 18 people and leveled at least five houses in the Muhaya compound, contained 660 pounds of explosive.

Interior Ministry officials, announcing their first arrest in the case, said they apprehended a suspect during the raid Nov. 27, but they declined to release his name while the investigation is under way. The arrest could help security forces pursue other suspects.

Saudi Arabia is on alert for more violence after disclosures this week that militants recently had staked out a Western-style residential compound and were plotting attacks against the royal family. More than 50 people have been killed in bombings in the past six months.

Authorities said they also confiscated 890 electric blasting caps, 40 "wireless devices" that were not otherwise identified, three computers, $25,000 in cash, various identity cards and pamphlets "calling for perpetrating terror acts," the Saudi Press Agency said.

The stockpile resembles dozens uncovered by Saudi investigators in a six-month crackdown that has resulted in the arrests of more than 600 suspects. The campaign began after a triple bombing May 12 that killed 35 people in Riyadh, including nine Americans.

Authorities say al-Qaida operatives have launched a wave of attacks to destabilize the Saudi monarchy and strike at Western interests in the kingdom.

Saudi investigators are also hunting for suspects who escaped a police raid that foiled a potentially larger suicide bombing on Nov. 25, the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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